Since taking office in January 2019, I promised my constituents that completion of the Hwy. 14 Corridor from Nicollet to New Ulm would be my top transportation and infrastructure priority. I am now extremely proud to report that the long overdue completion of this project – more than 50 years in the making – will finally become a reality.

On Sept. 10, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) approved the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) 2020 Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grant program application. This $22 million grant represents the final steppingstone in the effort to expand Hwy. 14 to four lanes from Nicollet to New Ulm.

This 12-mile stretch is the missing segment of the rural corridor that serves as the key economic artery from Rochester to New Ulm. The Hwy. 14 corridor is a vital route for the transportation of freight, agricultural material and much more, and provides rapid, reliable access to major markets, such as higher education opportunities in New Ulm, Mankato and Rochester.

With Hwy. 14 carrying such a great deal of commercial and personal traffic, safety is a top priority. Over the years, many serious and fatal accidents have tragically occurred on this route. Fortunately, the BUILD Grant contains key safety improvements that will produce immediate, positive results.

Under the highway’s current condition, light and commercial commuter delays deliver a nearly $5 million annual hit to our economy. Additionally, Hwy. 14 – originally constructed in 1938 – maintains a Ride Quality Index of 2.4, which is below terminal serviceability and indicates desperate need of pavement repairs, if not replacement. Perhaps most importantly, the expansion from two to four lanes is expected to reduce crashes by more than 70 percent.

In June, I wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, emphasizing the importance of the corridor’s completion to the safety and commerce of southern Minnesota and its residents:

“This project is extremely important to the continued economic vitality and public safety of southern Minnesota and it is fully supported by local, state and federal political representatives. The project is crucial to both the rural parts of our district, as well as our urban parts. Approval of this project will strengthen and provide safety to all commuters, as well as improve our farm-to-market network.”

This sentiment holds true, and I have no doubt that expansion of the Hwy. 14 corridor will have an overwhelmingly positive impact for our farmers, workers, small businesses, families and communities in southern Minnesota. I would like to thank President Trump, Secretary Chao and the entire administration for recognizing the value and importance of finishing Hwy. 14 and working with us to help deliver this well-deserved and much needed infrastructure improvement for southern Minnesotans.

I also appreciate the bipartisan cooperation of Gov. Tim Walz, MnDOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the Hwy. 14 Partnership, and all the local legislators and officials who have worked with us to secure this win for Minnesota’s 1st District.

Jim Hagedorn is the Minnesota Representative of the First District.

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